Reviewing Literature for Thesis: Tips from Personal Experience

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Literature review is a required part of thesis which critically revises books and articles published on the topic of investigation. It is done through reading resources, then summarizing, comparing and grouping them. Sounds easy? Far from it!

I started my thesis literature review by looking for resources in different databases and websites last year and could find … 2 credible scholarly articles. One can imagine how totally frustrated and scared I was! I talked to my professor and she gave me a very useful tip – change the key words for a synonymic or a close-in-the-meaning phrase. Also, she added that it is often enough to find one or two really good articles and then look through their reference lists – usually loads of great relevant resources can be found this way.

After I got about 10-12 articles on my topic, one more challenge came up – I did not have any idea how to organize them. So, I watched some experts’ videos online on how to write a literature review. As a result, I re-read everything thoroughly, highlighted the main ideas and the extracts I particularly liked. Then little by little the picture of the literature review and the overall idea began to appear in my mind and I could group the resources into three sections which were interconnected and complementary. Then lastly, I wrote the introduction, conclusion and reference list. It is important to revise the APA rules before or while writing a literature review and not to forget to include all the resources into the bibliography.

To my mind, the more you read on the topic, the faster you realize what your literature review should look like. Only remember to keep in mind the research question and stay focused on it to avoid wasting the time on the irrelevant literature. I also found convenient making a mind map of ideas while reading. And last bot not the least – try to include different perspectives and illustrate areas which araise inquiry.

Image taken from http://www.oneheartceremonies.com/write-my-literature-review/ 

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7 thoughts on “Reviewing Literature for Thesis: Tips from Personal Experience

  1. Dear Gulnara,

    Thank you for all the tips you shared with. Your post is a reflection of my problems I faced while doing my first literature review last year. I do think that every young reseacrher must undergo through all those difficulties to come up with his or her own strategies of conducting an effective litreview.
    However, even thoug you feel you are equipped enough to start literature review, you realize that it is not an easy job exactly to start this literature review. I have read so many articles, watched films on Youtube about conducting a good litreview, but when it comes to your own case, it does not seem as easy as it is told by many.
    I faced an issue of splitting all information I have into sections. What sections? How many of them? According to what criteria? From your post, I can see you are puzzled by this question too.
    Many sources recommend deviding litreview into similarities and discrepancies of reseach findings, thier limitations, what linkes them and what tells apart from each other. It helps to see what areas and aspects of your problem were already studied thoroughly and what aspects are remain blank and worth of studying further.
    How do you organise your literature review?

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    1. I organized it into three sections from general to more specific: Characteristics of Collaboration Models in Team-Teaching, Strengths and Weaknesses of NEST and NNEST Team-Teaching and NEST’s and NNEST’s Attitudes and Perceptions of EFL Team-Teaching.

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  2. Dear Gulnara,
    I was in similar situation when I was looking for the research sources. It was difficult to find those relevant to my research theme. To find scholarly articles it is useful to use library databases for scholarly articles such as tandfonline, Wiley, Jstor etc. I agree that more you read, more you understand what other researchers are talkng about your topic of interest. How do you make sure that the literature that you have found is irrelevant to your research question?

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    1. Well, I read the abstract right away and usually it becomes evident whether the article is relevant or not. If the abstract does not help, then introduction and/or conclusion which takes more time unfortunately. After scanning the beginning and the end of the resource, I am sure one is more than sure about the verdict.

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  3. Fantastic post, Gulnara. Can you share some of those helpful lit review video links you mentioned? The best one I’ve found is here http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/litreview/ but I’m always looking for new resources to help in the learning process!

    Your writing is complete, clear and organized. Keep an eye on detail, especially in article usage:
    “___Literature review is a required part of ___ thesis which critically revises books and articles published on the topic of investigation.”

    5/5

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  4. Dear Gulnara,

    I totally agree with on the point about the mind map. The mind map I’ve constructed for my literature review has helped me a lot. I was able to organize my articles and other sources into themes and look for some possible gaps in the research. I would also add that making a table of all sources can be of great help. However, it is time-consuming, but when you have it it is way easier to write up the paragraphs for the literature review.
    I hope we all will do well with our literature reviews 🙂

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